Home Community Insights Google Agrees to $391.5m in Settlement with 40 US States Over Breach of Location Tracking Privacy

Google Agrees to $391.5m in Settlement with 40 US States Over Breach of Location Tracking Privacy

Google Agrees to $391.5m in Settlement with 40 US States Over Breach of Location Tracking Privacy

Web search giant Google has agreed to a whopping $391.5 million settlement with 40 state attorneys general for deceiving users over its location tracking.

Google was found guilty of tracking and collecting location information from users even when they have turned off the location tracking feature. The investigation found that the company deceived users into thinking that the feature is off while it harvests information.

The settlement adds to the many cases of antitrust investigations involving Google and other members of the Big Tech this year. The investigation was co-led by attorneys general of Washington and Oregon.

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“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a news release. “They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers.”

The investigation, which marks the largest attorney general-led consumer privacy settlement ever, began after Associated Press reported in 2018 that Google blatantly ignored users’ choice not to track their movement. The investigation found that Google violated state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers about its location tracking practices since at least 2014.

Google said in an email statement sent to TechCrunch that it has already addressed and corrected some of the location tracking practices detailed in the settlement.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” a spokesperson for Google said.

The company has also agreed to make a wide range of changes to its location tracking settings.

As part of the settlement, Google has agreed to improve its location tracking disclosures and user controls starting next year. TechCrunch noted that the settlement requires Google to show additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting on or off. Key information about location tracking must also not be hidden going forward.

In a blog post, Google outlined it will “provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow.” The company also plans to add additional disclosures to its Activity controls and Data & Privacy pages.

Alongside these changes, Google is going to create a comprehensive information hub that highlights key location settings. In addition, Google plans to give users who are setting up new accounts a more detailed explanation of what Web & App Activity is and what information it includes. The company said it will continue deleting location history data for users who have not recently contributed new location history data to their account.

“Until we have comprehensive privacy laws, companies will continue to compile large amounts of our personal data for marketing purposes with few controls,” Rosenblum said in the news release.

Google has accumulated antitrust cases that it is trying to settle with different states across the U.S. TechCrunch reported last month that the tech giant agreed to pay the state of Arizona $85 million to settle a separate lawsuit that alleged the search giant deceived users by collecting location data without their consent.

Google is also currently facing a lawsuit from Washington, DC, Texas, Washington state and Indiana over another breach of user privacy involving location data. The lawsuit alleges that Google deceived users by collecting their location data even when they believed that kind of tracking was disabled, per the report.

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